“The case for a mileage fee,” by Lee Munnich (March 15), offers a welcome solution to the state’s intractable problem of funding transportation infrastructure: It is long-term, reliable and fair (and might even avoid partisan wrangling). Both parties are acknowledging our declining infrastructure and the need to find money to fix it; what better solution than a user’s fee, with each of us paying for the wear and tear we impose on the system? While implementing such a system is challenging, we can learn from states like Oregon and California that are already moving in this direction. And thanks to the University of Minnesota and its Humphrey School of Public Affairs for continuing to explore real solutions for the state’s problems; now will our legislators do the same?
George Muellner, Plymouth
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Munnich starts with a premise that people who own high-mileage cars don’t pay their fair share because these people “are driving just as much … and paying less for the same use.”
Nonsense. High-mileage cars are always much lighter than other cars and, as a result, cause much less wear and tear on our roads. The very small number of electric cars do not pay gas taxes, but their high prices have them contributing more money at time of purchase and licensing.
Mileage taxes would force us to create a whole new government bureaucracy to track mileage and impose taxes and penalties. Our problem that nobody wants to admit is that our federal and state gas taxes have not gone up with inflation and do not give us enough revenue to fix our roads.
John Giese, St. Paul
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How might a road user charge not work?
First, we enjoy road trips around the country. How would Minnesota miles be determined? Even an implanted, invasive car meter would not distinguish between roads and bridges crossed in Minnesota vs. other states. Would we pay for fancy highway road “readers” on state borders to signal the gadget when to start and stop recording Minnesota miles?
Second, how would outstate visiting vehicles be monitored? Report to a state department while the family sits in the car? How does this encourage tourism in Minnesota?
Third, would Minnesota residents have an extra tax form to fill out at the end of each year?
Logical solution? Just raise the gas tax.
The bigger-picture solution? Quit subsidizing rich oil companies with federal dollars. Use the money saved toward building infrastructure and developing 21st-century cars and trucks and buses. Move the United States on a faster pace to that “necessary shift” away from gas.
A.C. Seaborn, Little Canada
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Munnich is correct that the state needs to rethink how to collect money for road maintenance, but a mileage fee is not as fair as it initially seems. He mentioned many pitfalls and problems. Additionally, the fee targets only motor vehicles and not cyclists who increasingly use the roads.
Minnesotans should not complain about a government service that actually works and gets the goods, services and people we want to us. An alternative solution to a road usage fee is a flat tax that everyone in Minnesota pays to maintain our roads. It actually is fair. Everyone gets the mail and uses services that must be delivered by motor vehicle. Drivers still pay annual vehicle registration and gas taxes. Everyone pays state and federal taxes, so roads still have funding sources unaffected by gasoline efficiency.
Carolyn Maristany, Crystal
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If Steve Brandt’s March 15 report is any indication (“Bike lobby turns into a big wheel”), the opponents of spending on bicycling infrastructure have pretty weak cases to make.
Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota is self-evidently incorrect in saying that trails, paths and pedestrian infrastructure are “nonessential programs that don’t ease gridlock or fix our roads.” Every day that I bike to work on the well-maintained Hiawatha Trail and Dinkytown Greenway is a day that my car is not helping to clog Hwy. 55 and Interstate 35 during rush hours, so my bike commute does indeed ease gridlock and reduce wear and tear.
Also, does the Minneapolis resident who complains of “politically correct” bike lanes taking up what had been car lanes on Park and Portland avenues seriously believe there is a congestion problem that requires three car lanes in the same direction on these one-way streets? I both bike and drive on Park and Portland regularly and have yet to see a traffic jam.
The outstanding and still improving biking and pedestrian infrastructure in Minneapolis is a major selling point in attracting talented and diverse new residents to the city, and it helps to keep our citizens healthy and active and our streets and sidewalks bustling, enjoyable and neighborly while not stopping anyone from driving their cars if they so choose.
Jason McGrath, Minneapolis
RACE AND FERGUSON
What columnist says is an exoneration, others doubt
D.J. Tice’s March 15 column (“The face of racism in America — falsely”) reflects thinking that is bad news for families of color when he exonerates the police officer who killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. Prosecutors, as in most police shootings, failed to bring charges against the officer, but their inability to present evidence sufficient for conviction is not the same as a declaration of innocence. Prosecutors rely on evidence gathered by police. The fact that evidence in this case was contaminated and manipulated from the beginning, by the very officer and department involved, is documented and beyond question. A prosecution with only corrupted evidence would have no chance of success. And none of this corruption was accidental. The U.S. Justice Department report paints a picture of the officer as an armed point man for a corrupt system aimed at oppressing a black community. To speak of exoneration in the face of such a failure of justice is a dangerous leap of logic.
Tice may draw comfort about his own postracial America with conclusions of innocence, but for families of color, life goes on as usual, with parents left to wonder each day if our sons will make it safely home.
David Spohn, Lindstrom, Minn.
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Tice’s column was the most accurate assessment of the aftermath of events that unfolded in Ferguson, bar none. I thank him for having the integrity and courage to explain to the world that, lost in all of the reporting and comments by government officials, officer Darren Wilson was exonerated of any wrongdoing in the incident that ignited this firestorm.
Mark Prestrud, Rosemount
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Tice writes that the case contained “no credible evidence” to contradict Wilson’s self-defense claim. True, but the entire DOJ quote read: “Although no eyewitnesses directly corroborate Wilson’s account of Brown’s attempt to gain control of the gun, there is no credible evidence to disprove Wilson’s account.” It means that without evidence of guilt, Wilson gets the benefit of the doubt. That’s our system, and I agree. But “not guilty” doesn’t mean “innocent.” O.J. wasn’t guilty, either.
I’ll not take sides in this case but always remain suspicious of a Jim Crow system that could cause such a horrible domino effect.
Anyone who reads the Justice Department report about Ferguson should be mortified. The report drew a road map of how Ferguson arrived here. It stated that the Ferguson Police Department engages in a pattern of unconstitutional stops and arrests, motivated by discriminatory intent; acts as a revenue-generating operation; engages in a pattern of excessive force, and failed to supervise officers’ use of force. It cited widespread abuses of First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th Amendment rights of African-Americans by the police force, chief, mayor, judge, CEO and staff.
But for Tice, a young black man is killed as a byproduct of racist policies, and his sympathetic figure is a man who was an enforcer for a racist cabal.
Nick Dolphin, Minneapolis